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Michele Wilson, Respiratory Therapist Level 2, Local 768.
"We have to basically retrain our patients to breathe."
A Respiratory Therapist Level 2 works with people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
These patients can't breathe without the assistance of ventilators and other life support equipment. The ventilator is the most important piece of equipment we work with at our hospital. We're responsible for the maintenance of all the ventilators and keep records as well.
We operate 157 ventilators and have to make sure the circuits of the ventilators are unobstructed and the heat moisture exchange device is clear. We're also responsible for changing the tubes monthly. Most of the patients are wheel-chair bound or confined to their beds.
Henry J. Carter Hospital offers the largest ventilator services in the country.
We were formerly known as Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island, but they dismantled that facility and moved us to Park Avenue and 121st Street three years ago. In our new hospital, we have two buildings, seven units in the L-Tech Med building and six units in the Skilled Nursing Facility building.
If anything happens on our floor, some sort of an emergency, we have what we call a code blue or rapid response and everyone on the floor responds.
What we want to do with the patients is to wean them off the ventilator and get them breathing comfortably on their own. We basically have to retrain them how to breathe. They have to strengthen their muscles to breathe and we help them with that. We try different forms of ventilation. It all depends on the individual patient.
We've seen people come in who are in bad shape and after a couple of weeks or months we have them breathing on their own again and leaving the hospital. It's like a miracle. It's the greatest joy for them because they can get real depressed.
In 1985 the city was offering a program in respiratory therapy and I registered and completed the course. I became licensed in 1994.